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5 Postbellt~m Years and the Crisis zaithir~ the Academy JOSEPH HENRY (~868—i878) To honor Bache, his oldest and closest friend, and to preserve the Academy, as he had promised him, Henry assented to his election to the presidency. "I accepted the office with reluctance and solicitude," he wrote in his journal that day. "The Academy is by no means popular, but I hope with judicious direction fa favorite phrase of Bache] it may be rendered useful." And to Asa Gray at Cambridge he wrote: I very reluctantly accepted the office of President and I was principally induced to do so at the earnest solicitation of Mrs. Bache, who since her husband was first president, and because his fortune after her death will be under the care of the Academy, is exceedingly anxious that it should be perpetuated.... [I am] far from desiring that it should expire in my arms; but how to preserve its life and render it useful is a different problem.' ["Daily Journal for ~868," January 23, ~868 (Joseph Henry Papers, Smithsonian Institution Archives); Henry to Gray, July 8, ~868, quoted in A. Hunter Dupree, "The Founding of the National Academy of Sciences A Reinterpretation," American Philo- sophical Society, Proceedings 101 :438 (October ~957). 100
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Joseph Henry, President of the Academy, 1868-1878 (From the archives of the Academy). Postbellum Years and the Crisis / 101 Henry was fully aware that Bache's bequest provided a much- needed assurance of the Academy's survivals Without funds other than a five-dollar assessment of members and the voluntary contribu- tions they made from time to time, the Academy had barely managed to publish its Annual that year and two years earlier its first volume of members' papers as Memoirs, the latter distributed by the Smithso- nian.4 Besides these publications, the Academy had to support worthy research that neither the government nor the universities would undertake, and so sustain the interest of the members in the Academy. And Henry knew that probably only he had the strength and will to hold the Academy together and to be the intellectual 2 A sentence in Henry's hand added to the journal entry of January 23, ~868, and dated simply "February ~870," observed that the Academy, now heir to Bache's estate, "will on this account have a permanency which without this could not be expected." ~ Membership dues remained five dollars until 1921-1922, when they became ten dollars, as they are at present. 4 NAS, Annual Report for 1867, p. 7. Three Annuals, with some of the functions of the Annual Report and the later Biographical Memoirs, were published in Cambridge in ~ 865, ~866, and ~867, at the expense of individual members. After Henry's Annual Reportfor 1867, no more were published until that for ~878.
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102 / JOSEPH HENRY (1868 - 1878) catalyst to give it a shape and character transcending the single obligation called for in its charter. The very founding of the Academy had, he felt, been an extraordi- nary achievement. As he said in his first Annual Report: The organization of this academy may be hailed as marking an epoch in the history of philosophical opinions in our country. It is the first recognition by our government of the importance of abstract science as an essential element off mental anal material progress.... 0 1 He dwelt on the number of new members in the past several years and upon the more rigorous standards of selection by which he in- tended to assure the future of the Academy. Although nowhere stated in its charter, Henry declared, It was implied in the organization of such a body that it should be exclusively composed of men distinguished for original research, and that to be chosen one of its members would be considered a high honor, and consequently a stimulus to scientific labor, and that no one would be elected into it who had not earned the distinction by actual discoveries enlarging the field of human knowledge. Moreover, said Henry, in an association of persons selected on account of their attainments in science, proud of the distinction conferred by such selection, and jealous of the reputation of the society, from which they derive their honor, they will be exceedingly careful to admit no one into fellowship with them of whom a suspicion of fincompetence or pecuniary concern] is entertained, and it would be one of the special grounds of expulsion should any member be found guilty of such practices.5 Then, perhaps to justify these strictures, Henry continued with a personal essay—of which he was a lifelong master—on the necessity of stimulating scientific discovery in order that mankind might perceive more fully the natural forces on which the future of civilization depends. Unlike governments in Europe, the United States did noth- ing to stimulate scientific pursuits by conferring honors upon those making new discoveries in natural laws or performing original re- search. This the Academy could do and would do. Henry's report turned next to the affairs of the Academy. He had to announce the death since its founding of eight of the incorporators 5 NAS, Annual Report for 1867, pp. ~-4.
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Postbellum Years and the Crisis / ~o3 and the resignation of eleven.6 Although new members had been elected promptly, attendance at the meetings continued sparse, since many members could not afford the travel expense on their profes- sional salaries. Congress had made no provisions to sustain the Academy it had created, and Henry, with increasing dismay, saw the Treasurer's report grow progressively grave.7 Nor would Bache's bequest to the Academy, when it came in ~87~, or any subsequent bequest in that century, provide working funds; and Henry in his first report to Congress, ventured to ask for a small appropriation "for the expense of their annual meetings, by which a full attendance could be secured." It was not then or later granted. The annual meeting at Northampton, Massachusetts, in August ~868 Merit off very pleasantly . . . though the attendance was small," Henry reported, and was composed principally of members of the Academy and their ladies, with several invited guests. They listened to 6 Ibid., p. 9. The deceased were Hubbard, Totten, Hitchcock, Silliman, Sr., Gilliss, A. A. Gould, and most recently Bache and John Alexander. Eleven of the incorporators lived into the WOOS; thirteen into the AMOS; and twelve until the last decade. Only three saw the twentieth century: Fairman Rogers living until Woo, Peter Lesley until agog, and Wolcott Gibbs until ~9O8. Actually, there had been only ten resignations. Henry had incorrectly included among them Dana, who had resigned the Ice-presidency in ~ 865, but not his member- ship in the Academy. The resignations, in addition to the refusal of Dahlgren and Boyden to be incorporators, were those of Wyman in ~865; R. E. Rogers, W. B. Rogers, and Leidy in ~866; and Longstreth, Asa Gray, Engelmann, and tared P. Kirtland, Professor Emeritus of Cleveland Medical College, in ~867. Most of those who resigned for reasons of age, distance from the meetings, or personal circumstances were made honorary members of the Academy. 7 The first balance sheet, on August 3, ~864 ("Minutes of the Academy," August ~864, p. 7~), showed the annual tax and contributions from members totaling $~,655.7O distributed as follows: Annual Tax 230.00 Expended 877.20 Contributions 1,425.70 Due 550.00 Cash 228.50 $ 1,655.70 $ 1,655.70 Cash 228.50 Stationery 32.75 Bache 300.00 Printing 59.00 F. Rogers 250.00 Copying 163.62 Meetings 39.33 Travel 582.50 $ 778.50 $ 877.20 (Continued overleap)
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104 / JOSEPH HENRY (1868 - 1878) Henry's eulogy on Bache;8 attended the readings of scientific papers; and at the end of the session they heard Henry announce that the next assembly, in Washington, would be held in April, "a much more pleasant time," and a month more conducive to attendance than either January or August.9 Despite his unanimous election, Henry's term as President, like the decade in the nation, was not to be a happy one. The turmoil of Reconstruction political, social, and economic—after the long, bitter war, was felt in every state and territory, and in every home. With Andrew Johnson, then Ulysses S. Grant, in the White House, and with a pliable Congress, an unrestrained nation began the "rehabilitation" of the devastated South and the conquest and exploitation of the West. The decade saw a new tide of immigrants arrive, and witnessed an orgy of expansion and speculation that ended with the panic of ~8~3 and a four-year depression. It was an age of empire builders in railroads, industry, wheat, cattle, and oily combinations and trusts that concentrated the resources and commodities of the nation in the hands of a few, and of political rings, like Boss Tweed's in New York, that picked the pockets of the cities. In their preoccupation with politics and with the restoration of order in the nation, neither the White House nor Executive Depart- ment heads gave thought to any need for scientific counsel. When, following a single request to the Academy in ~867, for a study of the galvanic action associated with zinc-coated iron, the next two years passed without another call, some members questioned the Academy's usefulness to the government. In the account on January 22, ~868 ("Minutes of the Academy," p.243), a "balance" was possible only with a loan from Fairman Rogers, the Treasurer: Cash balance 11.30 Copying 117.29 Annual tax 155.00 Meetings 6.00 Contributions 273.00 Printing 267.77 Treasurer Diplomas 600.00 advanced 600.00 Stationery 3.45 From sale of Returned to Annual to Treasurer 100.00 Smithsonian 150.00 Cash on hand 94.79 $1,189.30 $1,189.30 8 For Henry's tribute to his friend, see "Eulogy on Professor Alexander Dallas Bache," Smithsonian Institution, Annual Reportfor 1870, pp. g~-~o8. 9 Henry to Mrs. Henry, August 26, ~868 ("Harriet Henry, ~825-~878," Smithsonian Institution Archives); Henry to Asa Gray, August So, ~868 (Joseph Henry Papers, Smithsonian Institution Archives).
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Postbellum Years and the Crisis / ~ oh Crisis within the Academy The restiveness in the Academy, reflected in the erratic attendance at meetings, was of long standing. Its causes were several: the difficulty of meeting in Washington; the disaffection of some members with the hyperactive Agassiz; the paucity of requests from the government, particularly for its naturalists; and, finally, the complete cessation of requests. In the spring of ~869, a wave of resignations came as incorporators Caswell, Frazer, and Winlock and new member John C. Dalton resigned from the Academy.~° Their action may have set in train the movement that apparently began to take shape sometime that autumn to dissolve the Academy. It coincided with the temporary loss of Louis Agassiz to the Cam- bridge group, which consisted of Peirce, B. A. Gould, Theodore Strong, and Wolcott Gibbs. Louis Agassiz was their leader their "steam engine," as Alexander Agassiz called his father. He had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, from which he did not fully recover for more than a year. It is probable that less than a week before the annual meeting in April ~870, Henry heard of the move to dissolve the Academy. Who its authors were or their numbers cannot be determined, since no direct evidence exists. The only clues are a copy of a draft letter, datelined from the Smithsonian on April 6, ~870, which called for "a meeting of the Washington members of the National Academy of Sciences at the Institution tomorrow (Thursday) evening at 7 o'clock to confer on matters connected with the future of the society," arid an undated draft petition on foolscap. The petition declared that despite the many services rendered by the Academy to government agencies since its founding, and the savings to the government thus effected, for some years past, though investigations in matters requiring the applica- tion of various branches of science have been ordered by the different Departments, the counsel of the Academy has not been asked. ° Simon Newcomb, in Reminiscences of an Astronomer (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., ~903), p. 25~, said the resignations were not acknowledged, and the AcademyProceed- ings of April ~ 87 ~ (pp. 82-84) show Dalton and Winlock still members and Caswell and Frazer made honorary members. NOTE: The single volume of Proceedings, in three parts published in ~877, ~884, and ~895, spanning the period ~863-~894, is largely a redaction of the "Minutes" of meetings and, to some extent, the Annual Report. It is valuable for the years when no Annual Report was published. See below, p. ~ ~5. The functions of the Annual and the Proceedings were subsumed in the continuing "Min- utes," the Annual Reports, and the Academy's Biographical Memoirs, the first volume of the latter appearing in ~877.
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106 / JOSEPH HENRY (1868—1878) The chief object of the existence of the Academy has thus been defeated. The meetings have become merely annual or semi-annual assemblages of persons eminent for their scientific attainments, but ill able to afford either the time or money requisite for attendance, and when thus assembled, nothing more is done than would be done in an ordinary meeting of a learned society. Under these circumstances, the subscribers, members of the Academy, original & elected, but who took no part in forming the original plan of organization, take this occasion to express their opinion: i. That the Academy has ceased to be capable of protecting the scientific interests of the nation. 2. That its existence as an ordinary learned Society, for the reading of memoirs & election of members, is unnecessary. Simon Newcomb, elected to the Academy the year before, later recalled the crisis. He had made the acquaintance of Joseph Henry on his first visit to Washington in ~856 when he was twenty-one, and through him had found a place in the office of Professor Winlock's Nautical Almanac in Cambridge. He had obtained his Doctor of Science at the Lawrence Scientific School in ~858, and three years later, with references from Commander Davis, Benjamin Peirce, B. A. Gould, and Henry, received a commission in the U.S. Navy as Profes- sor of Mathematics at the Naval Observatory in Washington. He became one of the most distinguished and articulate scientists of the century and Henry's close friend and intimate. Describing himself as "a repository of desultory information on the subject," Newcomb later wrote that over the seven years since the founding of the Academy it had become increasingly doubtful whether the organization would not be abandoned. Several of the most eminent members took no interest whatever in the academy did not attend the meetings but did tender their resignations, which, however, were not accepted. This went on at such a rate that, in 1870, to avoid a threatened dissolution, a radical change was made in the constitu- tion. Congress was asked to remove the restriction upon the number of members, which it promptly did.... [Classes and sections were entirely abandoned], the method of election was simplified.... [and the] members formed but a single body. 1' Misc. MSS, "National Academy of Sciences," Smithsonian Institution Archives (copy in NAS Archives: Members: I. Henry); Henry, "Daily Journal for ~870," entry for April 7, confirms the draft letter. Besides c,. Newcomb and F. B. Meek, elected the year before, Academy members then residing in Washington were Henry, Baird, i. H. C. Coffin, Davis, William Ferrel, Hilgard, A. A. Humphreys, M. C. Meigs, and Saxton. ~2 Newcomb, Reminiscences, pp. 56 95., 97 95., 252. i5 Newcomb, Reminiscences, pp. 249, 25 ~ -252.
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Postbellum Years and the Crisis I ~07 As the time for the April ~870 meeting approached, Henry found himself confronted with two crises: the petition seeking to dissolve the Academy altogether, and the threat of the establishment in Washing- ton of a new academy to be organized by iohn William Draper, with the avowed intention of supplanting the National Academy as a scientific adviser to the government. At the April ~870 meeting, on Hilgard's recommendation, Henry dealt with the latter threat by appointing a committee under Ruther- furd, with himself as a member, to protest recognition by Congress of another academy having the same "purpose and official duties al- ready imposed upon this Academy." But the next day, on Ruther- furd's recommendation, he discharged the committee. Draper's academy disbanded a year or two later.~4 The rival academy, and the long-discussed question of the seat of the National Academy, had led Henry the month before to write some of the senior members asking their counsel and telling them of his intention of holding more frequent meetings with the members residing in Washington. He had been reassured by Asa Gray's reply: Fix your National Academy of Sciences, of which you are the worthy head, at Washington, [and] not only hold all your meetings there but elect in all your men young & old. Make it the Academy at the seat of Government therefore National. Relegate those living at a great distance and not in U.S. Science to the position of corresponding members. Then your academy will be a welcome associate of [the] Amer. Phil. Soc., Amer. Acad. Arts & Sciences &c, and not occupy a position which is somewhat offensive, or would be if its former assumptions could be made realities. Then you need not fear the new pretender Li.e., Draper's academy] at ally The question was settled early at the April ~870 meeting, when Henry won the vote of the Council and the approval of the members to declare the city of Washington the seat of the Academy. The ~4 "Minutes of the Academy," April ~870, pp. 308-309, 3 ~ I. The plan of Draper's academy appears in The American Union Academy of Literature, Science and Art: Constitution and Bylaws (Washington: ~ 869). Its brief history was noted by Newcomb in North American Review 119:30~301 (~874) and his Reminiscences, pp. 35~-353. An excellent chemist and intellectual historian, John W. Draper and his son Henry were elected to the National Academy in ~877. For the subsequent fund that Draper bequeathed to the Academy, see Annual Reportfor 1915, pp. ~g-20. ~5 Asa Gray to Henry, March 23, ~870 (copy in NAS Archives: Members: J. Henry). '6"Minutes of the Academy," April ~870, pp. 3~6-3~7. Although the Council voted for both the yearly meetings in Washington, Henry wanted only one there. The ~872 amendment to the Constitution named April only. A subsequent amendment, however, made possible three sessions, which were held
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108 / JOSEPH HENRY (1868 - 1878) Council also agreed, Henry reported, to an amendment to the Con- stitution, recommended by Peirce and I. H. C. Coffin, permitting the election of fifty American associates to the Academy. A proposal by Hilgard to allow the assignment of the associates to classes and sections was, however, tabled. It was withdrawn the next day when Henry accepted Rutherfurd's proposal, adopted "with no vote in the negative," that the President submit a memorial to Congress asking for the removal from the charter of the restriction on the number of members. Presented to Congress by Senator Wilson after the meeting, the amending act was passed on July ~4 that year.~7 Another amendment recommended at that meeting was a change in the oath administered to new members, substituting an oath to support the Constitution of the United States for the Senate oath of fealty. This proposal was not adopted, however, and the revised Constitution simply omitted any reference to an oath. The nature of the discussion and of the proposals made during the last day of the meeting can only be determined from subsequent notes and events.~9 Thus it is known that Henry, acceding to the wishes of the members, agreed to the abolishment of classes and sections in the annually from ~880 to the end of the century: the annual meeting in Washington in April, and both the scientific and business sessions in November, usually in New York. ~7 "Minutes of the Academy," April ~870, pp. 3~6-3~7, 3~9. A manuscript "letter report" to Congress, addressed to Schuyler Colfax, Vice- President of the United States and President of the Senate, and dated May ~5, ~870, dealt principally with a memorial that the Academy planned to present to Congress to remove the limitation on the number of members. Experience had proved fifty "to be inconveniently small, in consequence of the widely separated localities where the members reside, rendering their attendance at meetings difficult and expensive and their cooperation on committees inconvenient.... The Academy therefore deemed it better to rely upon the natural limitation resulting from the conditions of valuable service to science attached to the candidacy for membership, than to fix the number absolutely by enactment" (attached to letter, J. E. Hilgard to Henry, December 2, ~872, in HAS Archives: CONGRESS: Bills: Removing Limitation. . .: ~870). Only two or three of these "letter reports" that Henry made to Colfax, in lieu of the Annual Report to Congress prescribed in the Academy Constitution (Article IV, Section 6), have been found. '8 "Minutes of the Academy," April ~870, pp. 3~9-320; April ~872, p. 373. '9 Although pages 330-346 of the "Minutes," following the scientific session on the morning of April ~6, are blank, they may have been reserved for Henry's closing address, as well as the other matters implied here. In his journal that day Henry noted that he had read his address at that session and then added, "The remarks of Professor Peirce gave me much surprise. He declared that all societies were of little value and that the academy could do no good." And below that, "The general [opinion?] was that nothing could be looked [for] from Congress" (Joseph Henry Papers, Smithsonian Institution Archives).
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Postbellum Years and the Crisis 1 ~09 Academy, ending nominations for membership by the sections, which some felt enabled weighted sections to perpetuate their majorities. It was agreed that this would become effective two years hence, when an extensive revision of the Constitution and Bylaws would be presented to the Academy. Since none of these changes altered in any way the character- or functions of the Academy, Henry assented to them; and before the session ended he appointed a committee to prepare the necessary revisions in the Constitution and Bylaws of the Academy. One change that may have been discussed but not recorded in the "Minutes" was certainly Henry's. The original Constitution required only that nomi- nations of proposed members include "a discussion of their qualifica- tions." After ~87e, it stated that nominations must "be accompanied by a written list of the original works of the nominee." The extensively revised Constitution was unanimously adopted at the meeting of April ~ 7, ~ 872.2° With the Academy out of danger for the time being, Henry sailed for England in June ~870, taking his daughter Mary with him. The Regents of the Smithsonian had earlier received a request from the English Government Scientific Commission, recently appointed by Parliament to inquire into the state of science in Great Britain. The Commission had asked for information on the operations of the Smithsonian, on education in the United States, and on opportunities for scientists in this country. An extract in Henry's Locked Book indicates that his trip had been urged on the Regents by some of Henry's friends to enable him to recover from a period of exhaustion and illness. The Regents responded by granting Henry three to six months' leave and $2,000 for expenses. Free passage had been offered by the Cunard and Bremen Lines. Later that month, Henry testified before the Commission, which consisted largely of members of the Royal Society. He told of his early plans for bringing original researchers into the Smithsonian labora- 20NAS, Proceedings, April ~872, pp. 85-93; Frederick True, A History of the First Half-Century of the National Academy of Sciences, 1863-1913 (Washington: ~9~3), PP 37-39 Original research as the criterion for membership in the Academy first appeared in the new Constitution adopted in ~872. See NAS, Annual Report for 1878, p. ~5, when publication of that report was resumed following Henry's death. See also The Semi- Centennial Anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences, 1863-1913 (Washington: ~ 9 ~ 3), p. I. Interestingly, in ~873 Henry ceased to preface the Annual Report of the Smithsonian with his "Programme of Organization," which called for the stimulation of"original researches" as a principal objective of the Institution. See Chapter a, pp. 3~-3z and note 44.
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1 10 / JOSEPH HENRY (1868 - 1878) tories, only to abandon the project for lack of funds. Instead, he said, the Institution had become largely a repository for collections in natural history a museum. During the extensive questioning on the condition of science in the United States, Henry found he had little to contribute to the Commission's own considerable knowledge of science education in America or the opportunities for its scientists. In his only references to the Academy, he made much of Bache's bequest, likening it to that of lames Smithson; and, in reply to a direct question, he told the Commission that the Academy had received no funds from Congress since its founding. except $600 for the oublica- _ _ c~ _ ~ ~ 7 tion of the first volume of its transactions. Henry arrived back in New York in October ~870, in time for the meeting of the Academy in Washington. It was not held, however, possibly because few members in the universities could leave their classes at that time of the year.22 In a letter to Henry in December ~870, Agassiz reported his steady but perversely slow recovery from his stroke. Henry had written to him in the spring about making Washington the seat of the Academy and to ask for his cooperation in healing the estrangement within the Academy. Agassiz's reply, with its unconscious irony, was characteristic: I am delighted to find that you agree with me as to the necessity of looking very deliberately into the affairs of the Academy. A better acquaintance with American ways has satisfied me that we started on a wrong track; but since we have at last got an Academy let us make it American as much as we can and try to avoid the natural domestic breakers. I perceive some difficulty in your suggestion to hold more frequent meetings by the members residing in Washington. The natural sensitiveness which I find to be Eextravagant] among my adopted fellow citizens will at once construe that into an attempt on the part of the Washington members to rule and control the Academy. A better way would be to hold bimonthly meetings in Washington, providing for ~~_ LA~V~;;~5 ~~O ~~ Ad;; ~~;~ I; ~~ r^~ .... Perhaps a subscrip- tion might be raised to that effect; or the Bache bequest might be so the trait - ll;~rr ^=r`~ - c: of ~11 bathe `~^lil~ he Arrant 21 Smithsonian Institution, Annual Report for 1869, p. 89; 1870, pp. 36. 85; notes in "Henryana," pp. 285, 286; "Examination of Professor Henry by the English Govern- ment Scientific Commission," June 28, 1870, in William J. Rhees (ed.), The Smithsonian Institution: Journals of the Proceedings of the Board of Regents, Reports of Committees, Etc. [(Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 18:782, 785, 794, 796 (~879)]. 22 The meeting of October ~87~ was similarly postponed, when Henry's clerk, John T. Hoover, reported that the Council, anticipating small attendance, had decided to put over until the meeting of April ~872 business to be transacted "of very great impor- tance" (Hoover to Henry, October lo, ~87 I, in "National Academy of Sciences Records, ~863-~887: NAS, Miscellaneous MSS," Smithsonian Institution Archives).
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Postbellum Years and the Crisis / ~ 23 Joseph Henry presiding over the meeting of the Academy in the spring of ~874 at the Smithsonian Institution (Photograph courtesy the Smithsonian Institution). So far as I am informed in regard to your views as to the policy that should control the administration of the affairs of the Academy, I am in full sympathy with them and so I believe are a majority of the members. I am confident too that a broad and generous policy will prevail in the Society, but the "good times coming" would come sooner if we had you to help us, and there are many of us who deeply regret that you did not decide that a healthful reform was possible in the affairs of the Academy.... Permit me . . . to express a hope that when you can see the objectionable features in the policy and personnel of the Academy removed you will not refuse to give it the benefit of your genius and fame.55 Henry's address to the members at that meeting, "on the progress of the Academy and its duties [that it] ought to make itself felt as a so Newberry to Peirce, no date, quoted in Max Fisch to Frederick Seitz, January ~ I, ~965 (NAS Archives: Members: B. Peirce). Brighter days seemed to be ahead for the Academy, but it was also much changed. Mary Lesley wrote her aunt a nostalgic note after attending a scientific meeting in the spring of ~875: "I missed so many of the old faces, Agassiz, Bache, Gould, Peirce, and others. It is six years since I have attended a meeting, and the changes are a little melancholy. But Professors Henry and Guyot are venerable and lovely, and I am glad there is anything of the former time left" [Mary Lesley Ames (ed.), Life and Letters of Peter and Susan Lesley (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, tgog), vol. II, p. ~47].
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124 / JOSEPH HENRY (1868—1878) Flower in the selection of men for scientific work by the Government," may explain his decision not to resign. A congressional investigation of the geological surveys in the West had begun that spring, raising the first great question of the place of science in government, and Henry knew of it from two new members involved, the geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden and paleontologist Othniel C. Marsh, as well as from the explorer and geologist John Wesley Powell, later an academician and then working on reports in a room at the Smithso- nian. But, when the Academy finally did become involved in the surveys, four Years later. Henry was no longer living. The Centennial Observance In ~873, President Ulysses S. Grant issued a proclamation honoring the centennial of the Declaration of Independence, to be celebrated at Philadelphia from May to November ~ 876 with an international exhibition of arts, manufactures, and agriculture. During the first century of the nation, the population had grown from four million to more than forty million; the number of states from thirteen to thirty-eight; and the economy was no longer almost exclusively ag- ricultural, but was employing two million people in manufacturing.54 Many distinguished scientists from abroad came to the celebration, but not at the invitation of the Academy. At the autumn meeting in ~875, the Academy agreed it would be inexpedient to invite the leading scientists of Europe to share in the festivities.55 One reason, perhaps, was that the Academy had no home of its own in which to entertain visitors. Another was disclosed by Simon Newcomb in his "Abstract Science in America, ~776-~876," which appeared in the North American Review's centennial issue, devoted to the progress of the leading cultural professions in the country.56 Newcomb found 54 Dee A. Brown, The Year of the Century: 1876 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, ~966), pp. ~6, 20-21; Scientific American for the year 1876, passim; "Men of Science, from Abroad, at the Centennial International Exhibit," American journal of Science 12: 161-162 (April 1876). 55 "Minutes of the Academy," November 1 875, p. 459; Newcomb, Reminiscences, pp. 252, 402-403. Nevertheless, most of the members attended the Centennial, and as Henry later said, " . . . a large number of the members of the Academy . . . served as judges at the great exhibition" ("Annual Address, April 1877," Smithsonian Institution Archives). 56 North American Review 122 :88-123 ( 1 876). The poor showing of this country in comparison with the scientific worl being done abroad had been discussed earlier by B. A. Gould in AAAS, Proceedings 18 :3~37 ( 1869);
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Postbellum Years and the Crasas / ~ 25 ignominious "our backward condition in every branch of exact science" and the future of the National Academy, as the visible representative of those sciences, in grave doubt. The Academy com- mittee under Fairman Rogers that had deliberated on the foreign invitations was discharged. If, as Newcomb said, America made a "most beggarly and humilia- ting showing" in the physical and mathematical sciences by compari- son with the work being done in Germany, France, and England, the natural and applied sciences were "cultivated . . . with great success." Since the Civil War, geology and paleontology had clearly become the premier research sciences in the nation, and, with the eclipse of the Coast Survey, the Geological Survey became the leading scientific bureau and the most productive agency in the federal government. . I/Zness and Death of Henry "After an almost uninterrupted period of good health for fifty years," Henry told the Academy in the spring of ~878, he had wakened one morning the previous December at the Lighthouse Depot on Staten Island to find his right hand paralyzed. The illness was first diagnosed as "an affection of the brain, . . . [but] on a thorough examina- tion . . . Dr. Weir Mitchell and Dr. Woodward pronounced the dis- ease an affection of the kidneys." With constant attention and super- vision, the accompanying paroxysms of pain had subsided, "and I am slowly improving, and now enjoy the prospect of being restored in a measure to my former condition of health."57 He knew, however, for he had been privately told, that this would be his last address.58 He announced his resignation as President but said he would stay another six months, "in the hope that I may be restored to such a condition of health as to be able to prepare some suggestions, which may be of importance for the future of the Academy." He told the assembly that a fund in his name had been established by members and friends of the Academy for his family's Joseph Lovering's "The Progress of Physical Science," ibid., 23:35 (~874); Newcomb in the North American Review 119:286-308 (~874); and F. W. Clarke, "American Colleges versus American Science," Popular Science Monthly 9:467-479 (~876). 57 NAS, Proceedings, April ~ 878, p. ~ 3 ~ . 58 Early that year Henry had called Mitchell to Washington and after a thorough examination asked if he was mortally ill. Mitchell told him he had less than six months left (NAS file memorandum, April ~8, ~963, quoting an address by Dr. Mitchell at the Academy in ~ 9 ~ 3, in NAS Archives: Members: J. Henry).
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126 / JOSEPH HENRY (1868—1878) present maintenance and at a later date would revert to the Academy as a fund for the advancement of scientific research.59 And he spoke of his hopes for an addition to the Smithsonian, where "an apartment expressly adapted for the purposes of the Academy will be provided." Henry briefly interrupted the reading of his address when he told the assembly that experience had shown that the President of the Academy need not be a citizen of Washington and that local residence of the Home Secretary alone was necessary to carry on the business of the Academy with the departments of government. Since his resi- dence at the Smithsonian had seemed to be his "special fitness for the position," he therefore asked leave once more to resign his office. Upon responses by F. A. P. Barnard and William Barton Rogers, the Academy most respectfully declined to entertain any such proposal.60 In his address closing the session, Henry augured well for the Academy and reviewed the high aims he had set for it: Whatever might have been thought as to the success of the Academy when first proposed by the late Prof. Louis Agassiz, the present meeting conclu- sively proves that it has become a power of great efficiency in the promotion of science in this country. To sustain this effect, however' much caution is required to maintain the purity of its character and the propriety of its , . . Versions. For this purpose great care must be exercised in the selection of its members. It must not be forgotten for a moment that the basis of selection is actual scientific labor in the way of original research; that is, in making positive additions to the sum of human knowledge, connected with unim- peachable moral character. It is not social position, popularity, extended authorship, or success as an instructor in science, which entitles to membership, but actual ' new discover- ies; nor are these sufficient if the reputation of the candidate is in the slightest degree tainted with injustice or want of truth. Indeed I think that immorality and great mental power actually exercised in the discovery of scientific truths 59NAS,Proceedings, April ~878, pp. ~3~, ~32. "As a special mark of esteem," almost forty thousand dollars was subscribed by Fairman Rogers and thirty-six others, the formal statement of the fund specifying its application simply to "meritorious investigators." First requested in ~878. the act of Congress authorizing the Academy to receive and administer such trust funds was passed on June 20, ~884. For a history of the trust funds 11p to ~908 that began with the Bache fund for scientific researches set up in ~863, the lames C. Watson fund in ~874 for astronomical research and a medal honoring achievements in astronomy (first awarded to B. A. Gould in ~887), and the Joseph Henry fund for original researches in ~878, see the account prepared by the clerk of the Academy in NAS, Annual Report for 1908, pp. 32 - 80. 60 NAS, Proceedings, April ~878, p. ~ 32.
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Postbellum Years and the Crisis I ~ ~ 7 are incompatible with one another, and that more error is introduced from defect in moral sense than from want of intellectual capacity.... With my best wishes for your safe return to your homes, and for a rich harvest of scientific results in the ensuing year, I now bid you an affectionate farewells The hopes Henry held out on the improvement of his nephritis were then rapidly fading. As Simon Newcomb later wrote: During the [previous] winter the disease [had] assumed so decided a form as to show that his active work was done and that we could have him with us but a few months longer. But beyond a cessation of his active administrative duties there was no change in his daily life. He received his friends, discussed scientific matters, and took the most active interest in the affairs of the world so long as his strength held out. It was a source of great consolation to his family and friends that his intellect was not clouded nor his nervous system shattered by the disease. One of the impressive recollections of the writer's life is that of an interview with him the day before his death, when he was sustained only by the most powerful restoratives. He was at first in a state of slumber, but, on opening his eyes, among the first questions he asked was whether the transit of Mercury had been successfully observed and the appropriation for observing the coming total eclipse secured.62 Newcomb could only have replied reassuringly. Joseph Henry died at noon on May ~3, ~878, and was interred in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown. Ironically, the Academy's larger usefulness in the affairs of gov- ernment and science to which Henry had so earnestly aspired and that he worked so hard to attain came only a short while after his death. Establishment of the U.S. Geological Survey "The planning of the United States Geological Survey" in ~878, Newcomb later wrote, was one of"two [achievements of the Academy] of capital importance to the public welfare" in that century. The other, in ~896, was the organization of a forestry system for the United States.6S The Geological Survey was established as a result of a conflict over 6t an., pp. ~32- ~33 62 From Newcomb's biographical memoir of Henry read before the Academy in April ~880 and reprinted in A Memorial to Joseph Henry (Washington: ~880), pp. 44~-473. For the transit and eclipse, see NAS, Proceedings, November ~878, pp. ~38, ~39. 65 Newcomb, Reminiscences, p. 402.
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128 / JOSEPH HENRY (1868—1878) the surveys made in the trans-Mississippi territories, opened to home- steaders upon the completion in May ~869 of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads the first transcontinental rail system in the United States. Topographical maps of the terrain were needed for distribution of the land and determination of its geological features and natural resources; and in ~86' Congress had authorized the first survey, along the fortieth parallel, or roughly the proposed route of the Union Pacific. Administered by the Corps of Engineers, it was under the direction of Yale geologist Clarence King.64 That same year the General Land Office in the Department of the Interior sent out a party under the brilliant but irascible geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden, whose energetic extension of the work into the whole of the Rocky Mountains region earned it official designation as the Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories. Two years later the Corps of Engineers, under Lt. George M. Wheeler, with civilian scientists in the party, began a topographic and geodetic survey west of the one- hundredth meridian. Then in Who, Maj. John Wesley Powell, with congressional approval and support from the Smithsonian, began his geographical and topographical survey of the Colorado River, ex- tended four years later over most of the Rocky Mountains area.65 With these surveys competing for funds and expansion of their operations, and all working in the same general area, the inevitable happened. In the summer of ~873 parties from the Hayden and Wheeler surveys met in Colorado, and Wheeler's reports to Washing- ton of this civilian impingement on a traditional military domain provoked a congressional inquiry. Beyond agreeing to the need for delimiting and coordinating the several surveys, and learning that a clerical error had removed Powell's survey from the jurisdiction of Interior and subordinated it to the Smithsonian, the noisy congres- sional hearing ended without resolution. It had made plain only that the naturalists wanted no military domination of the surveys, and congressmen with public land interests in the territories wanted no interference in the development of the West.66 64 Perhaps the most important scientific work that came out of the surveys was Clarence King's seven-volume Report of the Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel (Washing- ton: ~870-~880). 65 A. Hunter Dupree, Science in the Federal Government: A History of Policies and Activities to 1940 (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, ~957), pp. ~95 ff. Hearing of the surveys being planned, Henry had written on March ~ I, ~869, to Academy member Charles H. Davis that the Academy would be ready to act on the surveys when asked ("Henryana," p. 55, Smithsonian Institution Archives). 66 W. C. Darrah, Powell of the Colorado (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951;
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Postbellum Years and the Crisis I 129 ~~z,:u ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ —.~ The U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, conducted by Fer- dinand V. Hayden, on the trail between the Yellowstone and East Fork Rivers in ~8 (Photography courtesy the National Archives). Although Clarence King's survey was completed in 1872, a land- parceling survey for the General Land Office was now in the field; and with increasing appropriations, the Hayden, Wheeler, and Powell surveys expanded year by year. In ~8~8 yet another expedition, from the Treasury's Coast and Geodetic Survey, arrived in the territories. Its mission was to carry out the triangulation of the transcontinental arc along the thirty-ninth parallel, as planned under Benjamin Peirce, to connect the Atlantic and Pacific coastal surveys.67 reprinted ~969), pp. 207, 238; Joseph Henry, "Daily Journal for ~87~," July 8 (Joseph Henry Papers, Smithsonian Institution Archives). 67 Dupree, Science in the Federal Government, pp. 202-203. A Committee on Coast Survey Triangulation, appointed by the Academy in ~882, was intermittently active until ~887 but made no report ("Minutes of the Academy," April ~882, p. 659).
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130 / JOSEPH HENRY (1868—1878) The election of President Rutherford B. Hayes and the depression of ~877-~878 brought on a wave of housecleaning in Washington. It may have been John S. Newberry, or possibly O. C. Marsh or Clarence King, all of whom knew Abram S. Hewitt of the House Committee on Appropriations, who went to Hewitt with an Academy proposal. In June ~878 Hewitt was instrumental in inserting in an appropriation act a provision asking the National Academy to review the question of unification of the surveys.68 Although the matter was possibly as much political and administra- tive as scientific, the Academy was asked to study the five independent surveys and report an overall plan for surveying and mapping the territories. The request came addressed to Othniel C. Marsh, who was in Europe at the time. Marsh had been elected Vice-President of the Academy in ~878, and became Acting President on the death of Joseph Henry that year.69 Returning from abroad in August, Marsh appointed himself Chairman of a Committee on a Plan for Surveying and Mapping the Territories of the United States, and as members, geologists James D. Dana and William Barton Rogers; William P. Trowbridge, Profes- sor of Engineering at Columbia University and former member of the Coast Survey; astronomer Simon Newcomb, Director of the Nautical Almanac Office; mining engineer and zoologist Alexander Agassiz; and J. S. Newberry, State Geologist of Ohio. "As this was the first instance in which the advice of the academy had been asked by direct act of Congress," Marsh emphasized, "the ac- tion to be taken in response demanded most careful consideration."70 Besides their own knowledge of the surveys, the committee members had reports requested by Congress from King and Hayden, Wheeler's account in the annual report of the Engineers for ~876, and a plan of reorganization prepared by Powell at their requester At a special meeting held in New York that November, where thirty-five of the 68 NAS, Proceedings, April ~879, If. ~so; Darrah, Powell of the Colorado, pp. 239-243; Thomas G. Manning, Government in Science: The U.S. Geological Survey, 1867-1894 (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, ~967), pp. 38-39. 69 Marsh disliked the name Othniel, from the book of Joshua meaning "powerful man of God," and signed correspondence with his initials and was addressed invariably as "O. C." or"Marsh." 70 NAS, Annual Report for 1878, pp. 6-8. 7' Powell had his government-printed Report on the Methods of Surveying the Public Domain ready on November i, ~878. Equally valuable, and cogent, was his study for land classification and conservation, Report on the Lands of the Arid Region of the United States, path Cong., 2d sees., H. R. Exec. Doc. 73 (Washington: ~878), considered "a milestone in the conservation movement." See Wallace Stegner, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian:
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Postbellum Years and the Crisis I ~ 3 ~ ninety members of the Academy had assembled, the committee report was adopted by the Academy as a whole with a single dissenting vote, that of Edward D. Cope, and sent to Congress.72 Cope's dissenting vote was understandably a matter of self-interest. He had been under the Hayden survey, which the report recom- mended be phased out, and hence he stood to lose his livelihood. Furthermore, his chief rival, Marsh, would become the vertebrate paleontologist in the new U.S. Geological Survey, and Cope would be left out entirely. The report's principal objective was the attainment of an accuracy and economy impossible in the five surveys. It recommended that the Coast and Geodetic Survey be transferred from the Treasury De- F,artment to Interior and that the Survey assume responsibility for all mensuration in the public domain. It proposed that Congress estab- lish a new and independent U.S. Geological Survey in the Department of the Interior to undertake all study of geological structures and economic resources of the public land areas. The Land Office in Interior would be limited to control of the disposition and sale of public lands. The Academy committee recommended that, when that task had been accomplished, the Hayden, Powell, and Wheeler sur- veys west of the hundredth meridian should be discontinued, except those for military purposes. It also recommended discontinuance of the geographical and geological surveys of the Department of the Interior and the mapping surveys of its General Land Office. Finally, the Academy report recommended formation of a commis- sion comprising the Commissioner of the Land Office, the Superin- tendent of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, the Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, the Chief of the Corps of Engineers, and three others appointed by the President to study and report to Congress a standard of classification and valuation of the public lands and a system of land-parceling survey. Although the public lands in the West totaled ~,~o~,~o7,~83 acres, for geological and climatic reasons the larger portion had no agricultural value; and, as the Academy report said, the existing method of parceling out homesteads was therefore impractical and undesirable.73 John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., ~954), pp. 23~-242. 72 "Minutes of the Academy," November 6, ~878, pp. 546-547; Cope in The American Naturalist 13:35-37 (~879). 73 NAS, "Report on Surveys of the Territories," November 6, ~878; NAS, Annual Report for 1878, pp. 19-22, and reprinted with correspondence as H.R. Misc. Doc. 5, With Cong., ad sees., December 3, ~878. For Marsh's account of how the request for the Academy committee was acted on, see NAS Proceedings, ~879, pp. ~50-~53.
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32 / JOSEPH HENRY (1868—1878) The House committee that requested the study adopted the entire plan of the Academy in a bill reported to the Congress, and a jubilant Marsh wrote his fellow committeeman William B. Rogers: You will be pleased to know that our Report was as well received in Washing- ton as it was by the Academy. I telegraphed you that [at the Academy meeting] there was only one dissenting vote. The discussion went on for about [three] hours, but no valid point was made against our Report. . . . Professor Baird thinks the Report a very strong one, and that it will go through Congress without difficulty. Altogether, I think we have done a grand piece of work, and one that will help the Academy very much.74 Academy member and Chief of the Corps of Engineers, General A. A. Humphreys, did not agree with the report, protesting the omis- sion of a military geologist on Marsh's committee and of a role for the Engineers in the proposed Geological Survey. He sent in his resigna- tion a week after the November meeting, but it was refused, "on the very proper ground that no obligation was imposed on the members to support the views of the academy." He withdrew his letter two years later.75 Difficulty in the Senate arose from the influence of F. V. Hayden among western senators and territorial politicians. After near defeat in its entirety, the bill was only narrowly retrieved; and the major portion—relating to the Geological Survey; abolishment of the Hayden, Powell, and Wheeler surveys; and appointment of a public lands commission—became law on March 3, ~879.76 Two months later Clarence King was appointed Director of the new U.S. Geological Survey, the first great scientific agency in the government directly established through the work of an Academy committee. King's tenure was short. More interested in theoretical geological research than administration he resigned in March ~88~, and John ~ , 74 O. C. Marsh to W. B. Rogers, November ~9, ~878, in Rogers (ed.), Life and Letters of William Barton Rogers, vol. I I, p. 358. 75"Minutes of the Academy," April ~879, p. 559; Newcomb, Reminiscences, p. 257; "Minutes of the Academy," April ~880, p. 572. 76 Newcomb to Marsh, January 6, ~879 (NAS Archives: Committee on Plan for Survey- ing . . . Territories); NAS, Proceedings, April ~879, p. ~52; Manning, Government in Science, pp. 5~-53. By including within a general appropriations act a paragraph providing for a salary for a director of the Geological Survey and describing his duties, Hewitt, who had instigated the Academy committee, also created the Survey, without need of an organic act of establishment [Allen Nevins, Abram S. Hewitt (New York: Harper Brothers, ~ 935), pp. 408-409].
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Postbellum Years and the Crisis 1 133 Wesley Powell, the energetic and enterprising heir of Joseph Henry as "central organizer of science in America," was named to replace him.77 Diplomatically, Powell retained Hayden, who had hoped to head the Survey himself, as a member of the staff. And Powell now wore two hats. The bill that created the Geological Survey in the Department of the Interior also authorized a Bureau of American Ethnology under the direction of the Smithsonian, with its principal function the preservation of knowledge of the culture of the vanish- ing American Indian. Powell, deeply interested, had sought and obtained direction of that Bureau, and with a single staff was to direct the work of both the Survey and the Bureau from his office in the Smithsonian. Although Powell resigned from the Geological Survey in ~894, he remained with the Bureau until his death in ~90~.78 77 Quoted from letter, Lesley to Henry, November 26, 1876, in "Henryana," p. 291. 78 Darrah, Powell of the Colorado, pp. 254 95., 290-291.
Representative terms from entire chapter: